Mayor Michael Bloomberg seen with State Senator Malcolm Smith (right) and School Chancellor Dennis Walcott during visit to the Greater Allen A.M.E. Cathedral in Queens (Photo: Courtesy nydailynews.com)
Mayor Michael Bloomberg fired the latest salvo in New York City's controversial stop-and-frisk practices on Sunday, accusing one the main opponents of the program of putting “the right to privacy” before the safety of citizens and likening the New York Civil Liberties Union to the National Rifle Association.
“Let’s be clear. The NYCLU’s priority is not protecting our safety, it is protecting their ideology. And in that regard, they are no better than the NRA,” said Bloomberg, during a visit to a church in Queens last Sunday.
The NYPD stop-and-frisk practice, in which officers may legally search a person based on a reasonable belief that the person is armed and dangerous, has placed the department at odds with a growing number of residents and advocacy groups.
The mayor continues to defend his stance that the policy "saves lives" and has wavered only in his accession that the stops should be conducted in a "respectful way." He has also recently referred to the city's gradual decrease in crime and dramatic increase in gun violence earlier this month as proof of the policy's neccessity. However, analysts have found that attributing both of these changes to the NYPD's stop-and-frisk policy has proven difficult when taking other institutional changes, such as increased police staffing and the easing of the crack epidemic, into consideration.
The mayor has targeted the NRA in hopes of addressing gun violence in the city, denouncing aspects of the nation's gun laws in a campaign last April.
“The right to bear arms and the right to privacy do not trump the right of citizens to walk down their own hallway without getting blown away,” said Bloomberg before the congregation in Queens. “Both groups, I think, are dangerously wrong on the Constitution.”
Under Bloomberg's tenure, the controversial practice has increased by about 600%. NYPD reports show that, in the first three months of this year, officers stopped 203,500 New Yorkers — 89% of whom were innocent — compared to the 97,296 stops made in 2002.
Of the stops made this year, 54% of those searched were Black, 33% were Latino, and 9% were white, statistics that have barely changed in the past nine years. Critics of stop-and-frisk have expressed concerns over racial profiling, privacy rights and illegal stops, pointing to the overwhelmingly disproportionate numbers of Blacks and Latinos stopped during that period.
Aware of the racial disparity found in the stop-and-frisk reports, Bloomberg has nonetheless remained steady in his belief of the program's efficiency. “If we stopped people based on census numbers, we would stop many fewer criminals, recover many fewer weapons and allow many more violent crimes to take place,” Bloomberg said last month.
The NYCLU has continuously denounced the city’s stop-and-frisk policy and currently has two lawsuits pending against aspects of the program.
“The mayor’s latest attempt to change the subject doesn’t change the unfortunate reality that the NYPD’s stop-and-frisk program is out of control, and it is not making us safer,” said NYCLU’s executive director Donna Lieberman. “It is undermining the rights and the dignity of so many New Yorkers.”
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